Cactus – Warmth

20-cactusName: Crowsclaw cactus – Ferrocactus Lotispinus

Meaning: Warmth (modern: don’t be such a prick)

This painting was inspired by an image by awe inspiring illustrator Katie Scott, in Botanicum, Welcome to the Museum series, Big Picture Press, 2016

Day 20 100 days project #100daysnz

Arum – Ardour

17-arumName: Arum – Zantedeschia aethiopica/Italicum

Meaning: Ardour – passion or great enthusiasm

Not one of your subtler meanings really – the the big pointy yellow spathe is an upwards trending indicator of the ‘enthusiasm’ of the gift giver. Cheers for that!

In a curious clash of cultural implications, the Arum frequently features as a funeral flower.  Call me old fashioned but I think ardour should be contained at funerals. The arum is often considered unlucky or by many older people, many of whom will not bring it inside or even plant it in their gardens.  Hospital staff in the UK have been known to superstitiously refuse them.

Perhaps one reason for its unpopularity is that it is toxic to people and animals.  The Arum tops the list of plant related poison calls to Otago University’s National Poisons Centre. Largely due to its enticing spike of bright orange berries, or perhaps its superficial similarity to Taro?  Eating the smallest fragment will cause a burning sensation through the alimentary tract.  That would be enough to dampen anyone’s ardour.

The Arum is also known as the Easter lily, associated with republicans killed or executed in the 1916 Easter Rising, featured on mural commemorating the 1981 Hunger Strikers in the Maze Prison, County Down, on wall in Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin.

Like many plants, such as Agapanthus, which are treasured beauties in Europe and the UK, the Arum is something of an invasive scourge here in our temperate climate.  It features on our noxious weed list and is a nightmare to get rid off as any small piece of root or rhizome left behind will reanimate like the walking dead. Some tips for eradication here though.

Day 17 #100daysnz


Fuschia – Taste

16-fuchsiaName: Fuchsia

Meaning: Taste (meaning is for the scarlet fuschia specifically)

As Fuchsia is pronounced “fook-sya”, after the German Physician Fuchs, you can understand why that didn’t catch on in English.  We politely tend to say “fyu-sha” . As a consequence, fuchsia is often misspelled as fuschia in English, and this is the reason I had to completely redo this painting with the name of the plant spelt correctly. Well that’s mys tory and I am sticking to it.

Out of 110 species of Fuchsias worldwide we have our own NZ Fuchsia, the kotukutuku (F. excorticata) which is unusual in that it takes the tree form, up 15 metres tall.  It is The flowers are quite small and hard to spot compared to your ornamental garden shrub (pictured) whose heavy blooms sway like drunken ballerinas.

Foragers and bush grub enthusiasts know that the fruit of all fuchsia species and cultivars is edible though some taste better than others. The berry of F. splendens is held to taste best, reminiscent of citrus and black pepper.  It can be made into jam.


Day 16 #100daysnz

Note: This image was inspired by a painting in Michael Lakin’s A-Z of botanical flowers in watercolour

Pansy – Thoughts

14 PansyName Pansy – Viola Tricolor

Meaning: Thoughts

The flower I have painted is probably really a viola, depending on your definition.  Pansy, violet and viola are of the same family and these names are used interchangeably. Commonly we refer to “pansy”  as the engaging large velvet faced, multi-coloured flowers, while the term  “viola” is usually reserved for the smaller, charming and energetic self seeders which I have also heard called Johnny Jump Ups or Heartsease.

The name “pansy” is derived from the French word pensée, “thought”, and was imported into Late Middle English as a name for the Viola in the mid-15th century, as the flower was regarded as a symbol of remembrance. Humanists, and secularists have adopted the pansy as their emblem.

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare uses the”juice of the heartsease” as an ingredient of the love potion which causes Titania to madly dote upon Bottom.

In Hamlet, Ophelia’s descent into madness is told through the names and meanings of flowers “Look at my flowers. There’s rosemary, that’s for remembering. Please remember, love. And there are pansies, they’re for thoughts.”

Day 14 #100daysnz

Note: This image was inspired by a painting in Michael Lakin’s A-Z of botanical flowers in watercolour



Violets – Faithfulness

13 violetsName: Violets -Viola odorata

Meaning – Faithfulness

Oberon mentions violets at his most poetic in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  There he refers to the shy, downward facing nature of the flower rather than its sweet scent:


“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk roses and with eglantine:

There sleeps Titania sometime of the night”

In direct contrast, the Greeks saw the strong scent of the violet as sexy and so the violet, symbol of Athens, also became emblematic of  Aphrodite and  her son Priapus, the deity of fertility, livestock, fruit plants, and male genitalia. Priapus is marked by his oversized, permanent ‘Priapic’ erection. Not so shy now, violet.

In other mentions, the goddess Persephone and her companion Nymphs were gathering rose, crocus, violet, iris, lily and larkspur blooms in a springtime meadow when she was abducted by the god Hades.

IMG_1407Violets are delicious and easy to crystallise for historically accurate cake decorations.  All you need is some violet flowers, egg white, table sugar and a small paintbrush. Here’s how to do it.  If you are unsure of your flower identification then it’s a bad idea to eat them as many flowers which look quite innocent are toxic. Garden flowers may be subject to sprays and animal pee.  You can buy edible flower selections now which removes the need for guesswork.


Orange Tree – Generosity

12 Orange tree

Name: Orange Tree:Citrus × sinensis
Traditional Flower Meaning: Generosity
Happy Fathers Day in recognition of the generosity and kindness of all the great fathers out there.
Although there are flowers for maternal love, I’ve been unable to find a flower symbol for paternal love, or even fatherhood. Seems a little unjust, especially in view of how important that love is.
In its place, to celebrate Father’s Day, this is the orange tree which symbolises generosity. I would make especially clear that it is the tree you are presenting here rather than the blossom itself which connotes ‘chastity’ or ‘Your purity equals your loveliness’, neither of which are generally associated with fatherhood, although if that’s your Dad’s gig then go for it.

Watercolour method – my approach, in response to a reader question

sunflowerI have a very complimentary question from a Facebook reader – What is my watercolour technique?  So I have outlined my approach below for anybody who cares to emulate it.  It should suit anybody with poor impulse control.

My technique is: panic because I have to get a picture up today, think F*** it just draw something in pencil.. Sometimes I trace an image if it is a particularly complex one.  A lightbox is a massive help here.  Some artists feel that a tracing can remove all the life from an image, others (Quentin Blake) use tracing quite a lot, but mainly as a guide to positioning.

On this 100 Day project I am using a water resistant ultra fine point sharpie to outline first but often I don’t use outlines at all. I really like wet-in-wet and what this does to colour. Often I often use this even when it won’t give me any sort of naturalistic effect but because I can’t stop. The paper cockles because I haven’t taped it down, leaving weird tide marks.

I fail to wait for it to dry completely because I lack patience and then end up doing more wet in wet instead of finer dry details as intended. Then I cast it to one side often in disgust. I come back later and use a fine brush to do the fine details over the top.

I use a standard Schmincke paint palette which is well worth the expense. Yay Schmincke!  but proper botanical artists probably customise and add more greens and pinks to their palettes. I also love Start aquarelle pencils for quick things like birthday and cards for friends.

Iris Japonica – Message

11 iris japonica

Name – Iris Japonica also known as ‘fringed iris’, ‘shaga’ or ‘butterfly flower’.

Meaning – The meaning of iris is generally is ‘message’, although I can’t find a specific meaning for this iris in particular.

The name Iris comes from the Greek word for rainbow.  Japonica refers to its origin in Japan and China.

In Japan, the rhizomes are ground up as a source of starch. In China, the rhizome it is used to treat bronchitis, internal injuries, and rheumatism.

Fascinatingly, in Japan, this iris was encouraged or planted on the tops of hills, within castles, as the slippery fans of the iris leaves helped slow marauding invaders and defend the castle.

This Iris is super easy to grow and very rewarding.  Rather than the one-shot of the larger showier flag irises and German Irises, it flowers continuously over a long period and makes a good filler with its fringed flowers in delicate blue and mauve shades.